First-time voters to get a crash course

Voter information night

NASHUA – Hoping that familiarity will draw more people to the polls, the Ethnic Awareness Committee wants to give first-time voters a how-to on elections.

“We’re just trying to get the information out. The process isn’t a big mystery,” City Clerk Paul Bergeron said.

An hour-long event planned for Tuesday night is geared toward answering the simplest questions, from how to register to vote to what the ballots look like.

There will be some show and tell, a ballot box and a voting booth will be on hand, as well as sample ballots for the Jan. 27 presidential primary. Election officials will answer questions, and translation for Spanish speakers will be provided.

The Ethnic Awareness Committee, a group of volunteers appointed by the mayor, intends to reach out to the community more. Along with this event, the group is discussing bringing in various speakers to promote different cultural perspectives.

Two years ago, a similar informational event packed a room at the Division of Public Health and Communities Services. Some 60 people, mostly Spanish speakers, met in a gathering of candidates and would-be voters from the minority community.

Nashua is one of the most ethnically diverse communities in the state. The city’s Hispanic population has more than doubled in the last decade, rising from 2,407 in the 1990 U.S. Census to 5,388 in 2000.

But there is no way to assess how many of those people are citizens who are eligible to vote.

“It’s hard to measure,” Bergeron said.

He recalled how a Canadian citizen, who lived here for some 20 years, went to the polls a few years ago to vote on the advice of a candidate.

The person could not vote, but it is a misconception that is floating around that residents earn the right to vote if they own property or have lived here for a long time, Bergeron said.

That is not the case. Only American citizens can vote, he said.

The steps to register to vote are relatively simple. A person must be 18, a Nashua resident, a U.S. citizen, and have a photo identification.

Andrew Nelson can be reached at 594-6415 or nelsona@telegraph-nh.com.